Women Equality Day: Our Roots

Women’s Equality Day, August 26th, marks the anniversary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.  While this was a huge step forward in women’s rights, the 19th amendment did not give these freedoms to all women. Women of color were still unable to vote. To say that all women had the right to vote at this point would be erasing the experience of women of color in this country.  But as we evolved, learning and growth happened.  The 19th amendment was still a big step forward for women’s empowerment, and it lead to the feminist movements of the 1960’s from Center for Community Solutions (CCS) was founded.  CCS would not exist in the capacity it does today without this legislation.

CCS was originally founded as the Center for Women’s Studies and Services, CWSS, in 1969.  The movement began on San Diego States Campus by two women; a student, Carol Council, and her co-founder, Joyce Nower.

CWSS founder Carol Council, 1969

It was a multi-pronged entity that included education, outreach, journalism and crisis intervention for domestic violence.  The first Women’s Studies Department in the country was developed from CWSS at San Diego State University.  Students and faculty at CWSS were able to accumulate over 600 signatures in support of implementing a Women’s Studies program. As a direct result of this grassroots movement, SDSU launched its first informal Women’s Studies program in the Spring semester of 1970. By the following Fall semester, SDSU had formalized the program, offering eleven courses.

CWSS developed a newspaper which was staffed by women entitled The Longest Revolution.  There was a store front which provided classes, counseling and pamphlets with information ranging from how to enter the welding profession as a woman to resources for rape survivors.   In 1977, CWSS started the first 24-hour hotline for abused women in San Diego and organized the Underground Railroad for Battered Women, a network of homes and emergency resources to aid the survivor’s escape to a new life away from their abuser.

CWSS began as a grass-roots movement that addressed the very prevalent need of supporting women experiencing violence and empowering women into the workforce.  As in any movement they had to learn as they grew.  The majority of CWSS staff and founding circle identified with Gloria Steinem’s model of second wave feminism.  This differed from first wave in that it sought to have inclusion and address the needs of all women.

As CWSS grew they worked hard to practice inclusion and supported positive change and growth.  Those that had been left out of the conversation were given space.  In 1995, the center changed its name to Center for Community Solutions to reflect a change in philosophy and acknowledgement that violence is not only women’s issue.  CCS opened its doors inclusive to all survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault and their children/dependents, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression. Being intersectional and inclusive in our work is pivotal.  Violence affects people of color more than white people.  This excerpt from the article listed below explains:

“Using conservative estimates, between 25% and 50% of women experience gender-based violence (sexual violence, intimate partner violence, street harassment, or stalking) in their lifetime. But to cite that number without dis-aggregating the data hides the ways that multiple oppressions compound this violence.  For instance, women (and men) of color are more likely to experience these forms of violence than White women or men and that wealth privilege can help to insulate some women from some forms of violence.  We also find that bisexual women are far more likely to experience sexual violence than other women.  And of those murdered in LGBTQ-based hate incidents, 78% were people of color, and Transgender people are 27% more likely to experience hate violence than cisgender people.  In short, all women are at risk for gendered violence in the United States, but some women are far more at risk.”

As our knowledge improves and grows we develop better systems for inclusion and being the a catalyst for caring communities. This past year all of CCS staff attended training’s on cultural humility.  This ideology is taught in all CCS based training and prevention education efforts, including our Crisis Intervention Training and is essential to becoming an accessible and inclusive resource to make change in our community.

On Women’s Equality Day we acknowledge the work of the suffrage movement, everything it brought forward and how it propelled our founders to create the agency we know and love.  However, we also need to speak of the exclusion in order to push forward. The 19th amendment did not serve as justice for all women and was not a spearhead for feminist movements for women of color.  Those movements had to work that much harder to gain their successes, and that is something white women who identify as feminists must meditate on when reflecting on their successes. Acknowledging privilege is the only way to begin dismantling its oppressive nature.  We are learning, we are growing and we are proud of where we are headed. We think the founders would be proud as well.


Learn More:

CWSS services explained in more detail 

Carol Council 

Internationalist perspective explained 


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